Many decades ago, the German-American anthropologist Franz Boas coined a phrase ‘kultur brillen,’ to describe how spending all our time in a familiar environment blinds us from seeing what’s right in front of us.

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Martin Lindstrom poses a question that’s worth pondering from a personal as well as a business perspective. “Picture yourself waiting for someone in a bar. Do you take this opportunity to observe the people around you?”

His answer is one probably few would disagree with. “No. You fiddle with your phone – anything to stave off even a moment of boredom. You don’t observe your surroundings, and you miss this chance to let your thoughts wander. You could be observing, analyzing, and letting your instincts make the counterintuitive combinations that form the cornerstone of great brand building. Instead, you’re checking Facebook or playing Angry Birds.”

As the planet becomes more digital and the uses of artificial intelligence, more commonplace, our views of the world are quite literally being filtered through a screen – a phone or notebook, monitor or TV. With access to instant data, we may be examining more. But are we seeing less?

“The greatest business innovators have always watched, listened, and trusted their instincts. Consider Rupert Murdoch, who reads all of his 50+ newspapers every morning. He puts himself in his reader’s shoes, whether it’s a business reader of the Wall Street Journal or a British housewife reading The Sun…Or consider Walt Disney, who would join Disneyland guests in line, listening to their conversations and getting a sense of their perspective of the park.”

Lindstrom makes the case for the value of first hand observation and conclusion. “Big Data does reveal a ton about consumers — but cold analytics can only take you so far…Small Data provides insights to craft a powerful advertising campaign or launch a brand.”

As attached as we are to our devices, it’s good to be reminded that our own eyes and ears are powerful tools, too. Maybe we should use them more.

Contact us and we can help you develop your strategy for balancing the use of both Big and Small Data for your business.